Just Like Us — a book to do your soul good

I have written often about the two main worlds I live in (professionally):  the world of business books, especially with the books I present at the First Friday Book Synopsis, and the world of nonprofits and social justice, especially with the books I present at the Urban Engagement Book Club.

These two events are back to back – the first Thursday, and the first Friday of the month.  This week is a week for two exceptional books.  I have already raved, time and again on this blog, about The Checklist Manifesto, my selection for the First Friday Book Synopsis.  The book that I am presenting today at the Urban Engagment Book Club is also worthy of your attention.  It is written by Helen Thorpe, journalist and wife of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.  Here is what two very well known and respected authors said about this book:

“Helen Thorpe has taken policy and turned it into literature.” (Malcolm Gladwell).

“This is a penetrating, fair, and refreshingly personal examination of the passions that fuel the immigration controversy in this country.  Helen Thorpe measures the arguments on both sides of this national debate against the actual human costs imposed by the status quo.  This book will find a central place in this debate.” (Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author).

And here’s why.  The book tells the story of four young women, all growing up together, as best friends, in Denver — all mexicana.  But, two are legal, two are not.  Here are a couple of key quotes:

In all the time I had known the girls, no adequate solution had been provided by elected officials to the perplexity of Marisela’s existence.  Now here was the enigma of her child.  With any luck, Marisela’s son or daughter would be born with an American birth certificate, and would grow up in the United States without worrying quite as much as Marisela had about whether he or she belonged.  As long as Marisela herself lacked legal status, however, her child was going to have to worry about whether his or her mother might someday be deported.
This was the essence of what it meant to be illegal:  One lived with the possibility of salvation or despair close by, all the time.
What was the weight of one human soul?

We typically think of politics as something that occurs on a grand scale, but the more I watched politics unfold, the more I wondered why.  Did the idea of a country – an abstract concept, really – truly matter more that the sum happiness of al the individuals living within its boundaries?  No, I thought.  People mattered more than governments.  In fact, this country was founded on that very idea.

I hope you will add this book to your reading list.  It will do your soul good, and really help you understand the human elements of a very complex issue.

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